Skip to main content

A federal judge has told the people of Vermont that a solemn contract between them and the reactor owner Entergy need not be honored.

The fight will almost certainly now go to the US Supreme Court. At stake is not only the future of atomic power, but the legitimacy of all deals signed between corporations and the public.  Chief Justice John Roberts' conservative court will soon decide whether a private corporation can sign what should be an enforceable contract with a public entity and then flat-out ignore it.

A federal judge has told the people of Vermont that a solemn contract between them and the reactor owner Entergy need not be honored.

The fight will almost certainly now go to the US Supreme Court. At stake is not only the future of atomic power, but the legitimacy of all deals signed between corporations and the public.  Chief Justice John Roberts' conservative court will soon decide whether a private corporation can sign what should be an enforceable contract with a public entity and then flat-out ignore it.

In 2003 Entergy made a deal with the state of Vermont. The Louisiana-based nuke speculator said that if it could buy and operate the decrepit Vermont Yankee reactor under certain terms and conditions, the company would then agree to shut it down if the state denied it a permit to continue. The drop dead date: March 21, 2012.

In the interim, VY has been found leaking radioactive tritium and much more into the ground and the nearby Connecticut River. Under oath, in public testimony, the company had denied that the pipes that leaked even existed.

One of Yankee's cooling towers has also collapsed...just plain crumbled.

One of Yankee's siblings---Fukushima One---has melted and exploded (VY is one of some two dozen Fukushima clones licensed in the US).

In the face of these events, the legislature, in partnership with Vermont's governor, voted 26-4 to deny Entergy a permit to continue. But the company is determined to continue reaping huge profits on a 35-year-old reactor -- long since amortized at public expense -- with very cheap overhead based on slipshod operating techniques where safety always comes second. Along the way Entergy has also tried to stick Vermont Yankee into an underfunded corporate shell aimed at shielding it from all economic liabilities.

To allow VY to continue fissioning, Judge John Murtha latched onto Entergy's argument that the state legislature committed the horrible sin of actually discussing safety issues. These, by federal law, are reserved for Nuclear Regulatory Commission. He chose to ignore the serious breach of contract issues involved. As Deb Katz of the Citizens Awareness Network puts it: "Entergy's lawyers cherry-picked legislators' questions about safety" from a previous debate relating to nuclear waste. "Judge Murtha supported the corporation over the will of the people."

The surreal nature of telling a state it can't vote to shut a reactor because it dared to consider the public health dates to the Atomic Energy Act of 1954. To paint a happy face on the atomic Bomb, Congress essentially exempted the nuclear power industry from public accountability. It gave the Atomic Energy Commission sole power to both regulate and promote its "too cheap to meter" technology.

Some 67 years later, Judge Murtha says the legislature's encroachment on the province of safety means Entergy can violate its solemn legal agreement with the people of Vermont.

In practical terms, this could mean that any corporation can bust any public trust on even the flimsiest pretext. Let the corporate lawyers find some pale excuse and the company can skirt its contractual obligations. In the hands of the supremely corporatist Roberts Court, this case could join Citizens United in a devastating one-two punch for the unrestrained power of the private corporation.  

It would also put the reactor industry even further beyond control of the people it irradiates.

Thankfully, the judge did not entirely rule out the possibility of the state taking some kind of action. Vermont's Public Service Board still has the right to deny Entergy an extension. Perhaps the commissioners will ban the word "safety" from all proceedings. If they do say VY must be shut, Entergy's legal team will certainly even newer, more creative ways to appeal.

Vermonters will stage a shutdown rally March 21. Local activism against the reactor continues to escalate.

No US reactor has been ordered and completed since 1973. Shutting Vermont Yankee or any other of the 104 American reactors now licensed might well open the floodgates to shutting the rest of them, as Germany is now doing.

Karl Grossman has suggested Vermont use eminent domain to shut VY, as New York did 20 years ago to bury the $7 billion Shoreham reactor, which was stopped from going into commercial operation.

However it happens, the people of Vermont are in a race against time to prevent another Fukushima in their back yard---which is also all of ours.

"When this rogue corporation is again rejected," says Katz, "the will of the people and democracy will be upheld. Lets commit to doing whatever we can to at last make a nuclear corporation keep its word."


Originally posted to harveywasserman on Tue Jan 24, 2012 at 02:14 AM PST.

Also republished by Kosowatt, Nuclear Free DK, and These Green Mountains.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

claude, Thumb, Angie in WA State, cslewis, DeminNewJ, Marek, RF, Sean Robertson, filkertom, samizdat, ogre, RW, glitterscale, SaveDemocracy, importer, Geenius at Wrok, GreenSooner, Gooserock, wytcld, Emerson, wu ming, donna in evanston, Wintermute, tacet, cotterperson, LuvSet, mslat27, eeff, Ed Tracey, polecat, recentdemocrat, SallyCat, jancw, hubcap, concernedamerican, bronte17, missLotus, TracieLynn, macdust, whenwego, KMc, mkfarkus, barath, roses, JuliaAnn, ovals49, itsmitch, bincbom, Fe, jalbert, Nate Roberts, Cedwyn, SneakySnu, psnyder, danthrax, gerrilea, john from vermont, potatohead, yet another liberal, JimWilson, NYFM, Chirons apprentice, Calidrissp, 313to212, zerelda, ybruti, randallt, lonespark, tomjones, jcrit, rickeagle, vacantlook, sb, nailbender, Skennet Boch, maybeeso in michigan, marina, radarlady, Tinfoil Hat, ichibon, LarisaW, CTPatriot, democracy inaction, Alice Venturi, grimjc, kitchen sink think tank, Bcre8ve, drewfromct, Brooke In Seattle, majcmb1, GreyHawk, peteri2, jane123, kaliope, Isara, Tool, Ozzie, minidriver, sodalis, Rogneid, peacestpete, terjeanderson, Showman, detroitmechworks, Keone Michaels, vigilant meerkat, cybersaur, Mr Bojangles, tobendaro, raptavio, cookseytalbott, seefleur, VictorLaszlo, blueoasis, StrayCat, 4Freedom, The Hindsight Times, real world chick, Preston S, myrealname, ER Doc, middleagedhousewife, onionjim, IL clb, doingbusinessas, Clive all hat no horse Rodeo, shaharazade, Statusquomustgo, bstotts, blueintheface, cpresley, ammasdarling, Tamar, old wobbly, dotsright, Haningchadus14, Debs2, ColoTim, edsbrooklyn, LillithMc, terabytes, Historicus, Tenn Wisc Dem, artisan, pioneer111, Wreck Smurfy, uciguy30, madgranny, spearfish, Prof Haley, Empower Ink, MKinTN, revm3up, jack 1966, Clio2, BobBlueMass, kimoconnor, wayoutinthestix, scooter in brooklyn, Sixty Something, AshesAllFallDown, Thomas Twinnings, dadadata, animal mother, skohayes, Laughing Vergil, lineatus, wagdog, Its any one guess, mikeconwell, Lujane, Cassandra Waites, MrJayTee, Jake Williams, glendaw271, petulans, luckylizard, Executive Odor, SpiffPeters, lissablack, legendmn, Fiddlegirl, bluebelle7, Mrs M, Ran3dy, loftT, J M F, arendt, ceebee7, ewmorr, carolyn urban, CanyonWren, Partisan Progressive, haremoor, Andhakari, Leftcandid, Amber6541, Just Bob, commonmass, flitedocnm, CS11, Crabby Abbey, angelajean, cordgrass, tb mare, dlemex, DerAmi, DeanObama, cai, jim283, Funkygal, USHomeopath, Mac in Maine, Pakalolo, Onomastic, praying manatheist, redlum jak, ebbet, jardin32, anyname, FarWestGirl, asterkitty, itzik shpitzik, California06, marleycat, Cinnamon, grannysally, Jasonhouse, sonorelli, Wheever, antimony, Caddis Fly, disconnect the dots, Marihilda, Vatexia, Friendlystranger, jack23, joanbrooker, jadt65, DRo, Nightshade Q, aerie star, SouthernLiberalinMD, I C Mainer, No one gets out alive, deltadoc, bluebottles, ridemybike, MNGlasnant, anodnhajo, greenbastard, Siri, wordfiddler, Joieau, 420 forever, Evolutionary, congenitalefty, Horace Boothroyd III, Ana Thema, Arahahex, MartyM, qannabbos, notdarkyet, lunachickie, S M Tenneshaw, Noddy, Kinak, FrY10cK, freshwater dan, Sue B, Dr Erich Bloodaxe RN, The grouch, NinetyNineNorth, Late Again, glorificus, Setsuna Mudo, SanFernandoValleyMom, goodpractice, weck, Ecclesiastaverbs

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site